I picked up the phone and she was in tears. Not just tears but sobbing, choking, snot-running-down-your-face kind of tears making it nearly impossible for her to talk. I gave her some time to calm down enough to be coherant and here’s what she choked out:
“I just feel like I’ve lost my way.”
She went on to list all the areas in her life causing her stress, convinced she was an utter failure in mothering, life, marriage, everything. So she called me wanting know how to get her life back on track.
Now, she’s not someone I know super well but I knew her enough to know this: she’s a good mom. So I looked up to heaven with that You-better-help-me-out-here look on my face and whispered a prayer for wisdom and grace. Because part of me wanted to shake her and say “snap out of it!” and the other part just wanted to hug her.
Shake her because she was listening to the lies of the world and the devil. Hug her because it’s hard to be a mom and we’ll beat ourselves up all day long if given half the chance. I wanted to tell her it really would get better but when you’re deep in it, that’s the last thing you ever want to hear.
So I told her this:
You’re a good mom. No, you’re a great mom. Your children are little and I don’t care who you are, little children are hard. Relentlessly, continuously, monotonously, day after day, hard. And being consistent is wearying. I know. You’re bone tired at the end of the day and because you don’t see any change between yesterday and today, you think it’s you. You might not see any change but I promise you, change is happening!
It’s kinda like exercise. When you first start working out you don’t feel any change right away, well, other than sore muscles. You sweat and stretch and push yourself and at the end of the first week you look pretty much the same as when the week began. But you keep going and pretty soon small changes appear, a pound lost here, a more toned muscle there, a little extra stamina, a lot more energy. But not right away and not all at once. Your health is important to you so you make the decision to be in it for the long haul.
Raising a child is much the same. You can’t measure their progress by days, more like months and years. It’s slow, painfully so somedays. But I promise you this.
Consistency pays off.
They will learn. They will grow. You will see change. And I promise you this too…
...you’re not doing it wrong. You just have to keep doing it. Set your mind for the long haul. The marathon. There isn’t an easy fix. Just like with exercise you have to decide to keep going. And it’s perfectly okay to ask for help.
We have different perspectives you and I. You’re up to your chin in diapers and discipline, crayons and chaos and all you can see is today. I know where this all ends up because I survived motherhood and you will too.
Here are a few more promises.
- You’re doing a great job. Yes you are!
- It does get better. I know, I didn’t want to say it but it really is true, you’ll see.
- Your children will change. Hard to believe I know but a five year old is way different than a two year old.
- It’s not forever. In fact, you’ll be calling me again when they’re heading off to college and you’re suddenly left with an empty nest and you’re crying, “Is that all there is?” But that’s a whole other post
So here are 10 tips to help you cope:
- Relax. I mean it. Take a deep breath, eat a piece of chocolate, take a bath, go to the store by yourself if you can get help for an hour while you sneak away.
- Don’t compare yourself to any other mom. She may want you to think she’s Pinterest-perfect and her kids all Instagram-adorable but she isn’t and they’re not. You may not be an expert in raising all children but you certainly are an expert in raising yours.
- Find a few older moms, moms who’ve been through what you’re dealing with. Ask them to mentor you. They might be at your church or in your community or right next door. Let them help you through the rough patches. Admit you need help and listen to their advice.
- Bad behavior doesn’t equal bad parenting! If little Johnny throws a fit in Target it’s not because you’re a bad mom it’s because he’s a child!!! Don’t sweat it mama. I can almost guarantee you it’ll happen again.
- Enjoy where your children are right now. It’s easy to wish they were potty trained/in kindergarten/reading/driving but trust me, there’s joy to be found in this present season. Don’t miss the everyday special moments with your kids. Here’s why: things will never be as simple as they are now (just ask the parent of a teenager if you don’t believe me.)
- Consistency pays off. Stick to your guns, don’t be afraid to discipline with love. You are first and foremost a parent. Eventually you become a friend but not at first. You are in charge but if you’re not and chaos is reigning in your home, see number 3.
- You’re not doing it wrong. But you have to keep doing it, the same things over and over and over. Remember, change is gradual.
- Be attentive to their diet. Teach them about good food early. You don’t have to succumb to the chicken nuggets and mac-n-cheese kid’s menu. Give them lots of healthy choices. Food builds our bodies and brains. Try to avoid processed foods, artificial colors and flavors like the plague. In other words, take care with what you feed them. It will take a little more time but it really does make a huge difference.
- It’s okay to cry and it’s okay to be tired. Try to take a few moments for yourself each day. When you can, get up a little earlier than the kids for a few minutes of quiet time and prayer to settle yourself before the day begins. Or, take a nap when they nap. Yes it’s allowed! The laundry can wait! And it’s perfectly okay to ask for help when you’re overwhelmed. Just like the sweet mom who reached out to me. I was happy to help her and pray with her and put her mind and heart at ease!
- You don’t have to love every season of raising your child. Some seasons are easier than others, just ask the mom of a defiant 2 year old! You’re not a bad mom for wishing a particular season was over. Hang in there, spring is coming!
So, maybe you’re like the stressed out mom who called me the other day, overwhelmed and needing to get back on track. You are not alone! The modern world is confusing and overwhelming and stressful as all get-out. I’m hopeful these 10 things will help you get back on track and I’m praying for you. I know you’ll find your way mama because I know this about you…
…you’re a good mom. No, you’re a great mom.